The world of DIY music publicity can feel very overwhelming. Sadly, a lot of artists get bad advice when they are just starting out that the first thing they should do is go out and hire a music publicist. We don’t think this is the best advice at all as you may not be ready for a music publicist right off the bat. There are many things you should do first (after you have amazing music, of course) – for example, get a handle on your actual goals, then create your story & brand, social media, and have your marketing plan in order.
Another thing to understand is, that when attempting to be your own music publicist you need to look beyond Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Rolling Stone. Being an indie music publicist involves understanding a complex ecosystem of music blogs, playlists, podcasts, social media influencers and traditional media – newspapers, magazines, television and radio.
It is possible to do it yourself and this guide is here to help.
Click below to download our Music Publicity Checksheet which is designed to keep you on track and help you uncover what you may not even know you need!
The State of Music Publicity Now
Music publicity has changed radically over the years and will continue to change as trends come and go.
There’s no question that music blogs, podcasts, and websites are important, but the internet has brought another huge change to music publicity: the ability to personally connect with fans through social media and email.
Why does this matter? Because music publicity and social media are intertwined. In order to get good publicity for your music, you have to have a good social media strategy. It can be challenging to get press if the writers don’t see that you already have fans. Music bloggers and journalists are trying to get people to come to their sites – they’re not going to write about you (or even listen to your music, really) if there’s no proof that at least some people already believe in what you’re doing. Therefore, in order to run an effective publicity campaign for your music, you have to make sure that your social media strategy is solid.
Being a music publicist, like building a fan base, or getting on Spotify Playlists takes time, dedication, and effort. When you are in the throes of a PR campaign the effort sometimes feels Herculean compared to the result (if you gauge the result solely on how many placements you receive). However, with a bit of foresight, organization, and grit, you can get good results.
Remember: Getting a music publicist is only PART of a much larger strategy you need to be aware of!
First Move: Prepare Your Digital Press Kit
Writers, playlisters and anyone producing regular content live in a world of overwhelm and constantly work under deadlines. Many get hundreds of emails a day from publicists and artists. Therefore, you should never make them work to get any information they may need.
A digital press kit will help organize your information so they can immediately access your music and quickly get a sense of who you are.
There are 5 components to a strong musician’s digital press kit. They are:
Genres and Comparisons
Your Signature Story
Photos and Album Artwork
Our team at Cyber PR has helped create hundreds of effective press kits, so we’ll give you some tips on how to make the best impression possible.
1. Your Music
As a general rule, most media prefer to get music via SoundCloud links. Unless their submission policy specifically states to send an MP3 or a Dropbox link. We have a great 3-part SoundCloud guide if you need to walk yourself through best practices.
Make sure you have your single, EP, or album (along with artwork) on SoundCloud as one playlist. If the album is not yet available you can set it to private, but make sure you test the link first! The last thing you want is for a writer to click on the link you provided only to find that they can’t access your music. If you are pitching a single, make sure the single is uploaded separately.
TIP: Create separate artwork for any singles you release prior to EPs or Albums and include it.
If you’re trying to get an exclusive premiere, send a private share link like the one above.
On your SoundCloud profile, add a 100 – 200-word bio (a few captivating sentences), and include all the links to your website & socials, as well as where to find your music on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, Spotify, etc. Music blogs rarely include links to buy, because most new listeners just want to stream, but it’s always a good idea to have those links available.
2. Genres and Comparisons
I know that describing your own music can be a really challenging thing. But the media are getting pitches constantly, and they don’t have the time or the inclination to read two paragraphs about how your music is “genre-defying” or something equally vague. You need to find a way to quickly describe your music, an elevator pitch that will get the right people interested right away. How does one do this?
Choose 2-3 genres that fit your music. Then choose 2-3 soundalike artists. This paints an instant picture of your music. But be careful – David Bowie might be your hero, but that doesn’t mean your music sounds like his. Get accurate feedback from people you trust, and be as truthful as possible. If you pitch yourself inaccurately, you’ll miss the opportunity to catch the attention of bloggers who might like your music, while simultaneously annoying bloggers who click on your SoundCloud link, expecting something completely different.
3. Your Signature Story
Your Signature Story is the second cornerstone of your brand and your artistry (the first, clearly, is your music). This story shouldn’t be bland and boring! It should be personal or painful or revealing in some way, and, of course, interesting to read. The idea here is not to eclipse who you are as an artist or songwriter, but to create a hook – an angle that makes you relatable, and reels in a potential fan. A really strong signature story is not easy to create on your own. I strongly advise hiring a bio writer to help you.
Include what your music sounds like towards the beginning of your bio. This way, if a writer is pressed for time, she can simply take a sentence or two from your bio and place it directly in the write-up. This is the perfect place for your 2-3 genres and 2-3 comparisons.
Avoid vague clichés such as “melodic,” “brilliant harmonies,” “masterful guitar playing,” “tight rhythm section,” etc. These are terms that can be used to describe any music. Really think about what makes your music special!
4. Photos & Album Artwork
A great photo is crucial. You need at least one photo that is clear, well-lit, and attention-grabbing. You want it to show off your personality and the vibe of your band. Try to avoid the typical “band sitting on a couch” or “band standing up against a wall” clichés – music writers see about 500 of those a day. Be sure to go to the sites that you’re aiming for and see what the cover art they are posting looks like. While your music and art should obviously be your vision, it’s important to fit in with the other artists on the site as branding is half the battle. Click here to see a deck that includes dozens of examples of great artists’ photos.
Make sure your photos are easy to locate and download (in hi-res). Ensure that the file is properly named so that if the writer downloads it, it will show up easily in a cluttered file or on a desktop.
TIP: Put several color images, both vertical and horizontal, as well as your album artwork on your photos page, so editors can choose the ones they like best and which work best for their specific formats & layout.
5. Your Socials
Be sure to include links to your socials! Not only does this give the media a better sense of your music and who you are, but it also shows that other people give a damn. The bandwagon effect is a powerful tool in the music industry, and if a blogger sees that people are already excited about you (even if it’s just your friends!) This makes it easier for them to get excited about you too
TIP: Make sure that you’re actually updating the socials you link to, and if you’ve gotten any sort of press in the past, make sure to visualize and post it.
Showing your gratitude and support of the sites/journalists that feature your music makes it much more likely that others will want to feature you too. So if and when you do get a placement visualize it and add it to all of your socials (tagging the journalist/playlister/host and the blog/site/podcast of course). We love Canva for creating graphics.
Here are some examples of how we visualize placements for our artists so they can post their results on socials:
Now that you have the elements needed for your digital press kit, create a section on your website that houses all this information. Make sure you update it regularly.
Second Move: Add Your Press Kit to Your Website
If you don’t have a website or yours needs an update, check out our comprehensive article on making an affordable effective musician’s website HERE.
Add your press shots on your Instagram feed and to your Facebook Page, also add a solid 100-word mini-bio to the “About” on Facebook and be really thoughtful about your bio and emoji on Instagram – you’d be amazed how many bloggers will grab your photos and bio info straight from your socials.
In Part 2, we’ll show you how to start contacting and establishing relationships with media